“Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall”: The Enduring Legacy of Leftist Social Movements

By Austin McCoy

Some political observers have pointed out how President Obama’s second inaugural address contained plenty of memorable lines. The President’s affirmation of women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights, via his Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall allusions, does not just stand out as an impressive use of lyrical alliteration; it represents the acknowledgement of Obama’s electoral coalition. Also, Obama’s nod serves as a ringing validation of the same manifestations of “identity politics” that some critics have chided while lamenting the fate of the U.S. Left after the 1960s. Obama’s adoption of the rhetoric in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution highlights feminists’, civil rights advocates’, and gay rights activists’ efforts to expand democracy by forcing the nation to live by its own creed articulated in the founding documents.